With USADA making their report against Lance Armstrong public on Thursday there has been a lot to take in.
In USADA’s report to the UCI, hundreds of pages presenting evidence and testimonies against Armstrong were illustrated. Despite no new evidence being presented in the report, the overwhelming substance and weight of the testimony has ultimately destroyed the American’s reputation.
“Different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professional team-run doping conspiracy.” USADA chief executive Travis Tygart.
Whilst there is too much evidence to document in this article, there were several key testimonies that provide compelling evidence against Armstrong.The drug culture enforced by the US Postal Service on its riders has been well illustrated over the past few years, with several riders admitting to using banned substances such as EPO and testosterone. Lance Armstrong has been identified as the ring-leader in this plot by former teammates such as convicted drug cheats Tyler Hamilton and Jonathan Vaughters amongst other riders and staff members. Team member at the time Emma O’Riely has stated that Armstrong ordered her several times to remove used syringes, whilst Vaughters and Christian Vande Velde give eyewitness accounts of a doctor bringing Armstrong masking agents.
These riders have also testified that they saw Armstrong injecting himself with EPO several times during the 1999 and 2000 Tour de France races. Retesting of these samples has found the evidence to be truthful, with EPO traces detected in six samples.
In 2002, Floyd Landis states that he witnessed Armstrong extracting and reinfusing blood, whilst also injecting himself with masking agents.
Finally, expert examination of Armstrong’s blood samples from the 2009 and 2010 Tour’s in which he raced for Kazakhstani outfit Astana, shows the odds of a composition with lower red blood cell count compared to earlier samples being natural were ‘less than one in a million’.
“The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Travis Tygart.
Unsurprisingly the fallout from this report has been monumental, and isn’t expected to slow down any time soon.
The first headline that has surfaced is that the prestigious Tour de France is going to have a seven year gap on its winners list. Tour director Christian Prudhomme has stated that he is against handing Armstrong’s victories to other riders, and has regrettably resigned to calling the period the ‘lost decade’ of cycling. To make this decision much easier for Prudhomme is the fact that most of the place getters on these Tours have been induced in their own doping scandals. Finding a rider untouched by doping allegations would have been a near impossible task for the Tour officials.
The second news story to surface is the resignation of RadioShack-Nissan general manager Johan Bruyneel. Bruyneel was Armstrong’s manager during his drug-tainted tours and has sub-sequentially been caught up in USADA’s investigation, so much so that current Swiss and RadioShack superstar Fabian Cancellara stated he would have re-evaluated his alliance to the team if Bruyneel stayed in his position as manager.
It appears that Armstrong’s prosecution will not be limited to the cycling world, with US legal prosecutors and companies considering fresh criminal and civil actions. Although it will require several years of legal dispute and financial cost, Armstrong may be prosecuted on the grounds that he lied when he denied using performance-enhancing substances. A misuse of funds and settlements are at the basis of the legal actions. Despite this, there are still numerous hurdles to overcome for these proceedings to take place, namely the fact that the case is seen as highly political, and with the upcoming American presidential election, candidates Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney will not want to jeopardise their campaigns by re-opening these investigations as it would cost a large amount of taxpayer dollars.
Finally, a massive shock to Australian cycling came to the fore on Saturday with former professional cyclist and current Orica-GreenEdge and Cycling Australia manager Matt White standing down from his posts following an admission of taking drugs during 2001-2003 when he rode for Lance Armstrong on the US Postal team. Orica-GreenEdge has made the following statement in regards to White’s decision to step down.
“The management of GreenEDGE supports Matt White’s decision to step down from his position with the team during the process of evaluating his involvement in the revelations put forward by the recently released USADA report. We hope for a quick and clear resolution of this issue and will await the decision of the relevant authorities.
Until this process has run its due course, the management will refrain from making any further comments.”
Unfortunately for Australian cycling, Whites admission of guilt is going to reflect poorly on the development Orica-GreenEdge has had in its first year of professional racing. White has played an integral part in setting up the first ever professional Australian team, and he has been one of the faces of the team this year. He has stated that it is up to Cycling Australia and GreenEdge in deciding if he has a future in cycling.
As the cycling season has wrapped up over night with the conclusion of the Tour of Beijing, several dark months lay ahead of the cycling world. Unfortunately Armstrong has managed to bring the sport to lofty heights during the early 00’s, only to cut it down at the knees over the past few months. The overwhelming evidence presented against the American has surely removed any of the conspiracy theorists out there, and now the cycling world has to deal with the sport’s greatest rider since Eddy Merckx being one of the most tainted and disgraced athletes of all time.
Despite Armstrong degrading cycling’s reputation, I think it is important to remember that all the drug controversy has come from several years ago, and that a majority of the current cyclists are clean and without suspicion. The last two Tour de France winners Cadel Evans and Brad Wiggins have had no trace of drug controversy attached too them, whilst other heavyweights Vicenzo Nibali, Edvald Boassan Hagen, current World Champion Philippe Gilbert, Mark Cavendish and Tony Martin have ridden clean and without suspicion as well.
I think it is a testament to the UCI for cleaning up the sport in recent years and I for one hope the new generation of superstars continue to re-build cycling’s reputation over the next few years. It won’t be an easy task to re-gain a positive perception from those outside the cycling community, but it is something that can be achieved.